Sunday, January 28, 2007

Assuming we're "in"

It's amazing how many people who call themselves "Christian" assume that they are following Jesus in the same way as the apostolic church and that they can be included in that group. People can read Paul's letter, for example, where he refers to the apostolic church with words like "you" (plural), "we" and "us" and assume that they are automatically included in those groups where it suits.

Let me explain using two brief and arbitrary examples:
Rom 5:1: Then being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Rom 8:16-17 The Spirit Himself witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God. And if children, also heirs; truly heirs of God, and joint-heirs of Christ, if indeed we suffer together, that we may also be glorified together.

I have heard Christians simply assume that they are part of the "us" group being discussed in verses like these, and I think I've worked out why. Whatever they think it is that makes them "Christians" (often something like believing, trusting and accepting Jesus and his atoning death for our sins), they assume the apostolic church had the same view. They assume that the group of Jesus-followers Paul means by "we" and "us" and "our" was also defined by similar beliefs or behaviors - even if it wasn't. So they think they really are part of the same "us" group - even if they aren't. And so they think statements that applied to the early Jesus-groups also apply to them - even if they don't.

As a result, I have observed Christians often experience a kind of dissonance, a tension in their minds. They read and earnestly feel certain things apply to them, and yet they don't always seem to experience these things in their real lives. Their beliefs and observations don't line up. Yet often, Christians seem to deal with this by saying "well it must be true because it's in the bible, so I'll just believe it" rather than considering whether or not they are included in the group referred to. They muster up "faith" to believe what doesn't seem to be true rather than face the frightening thought that they might not be in the "us" group. "Faith" becomes the rug under which reality is swept.

I think a large number of Christians are blinded by such "faith". Instead of realising that they really aren't authentically experiencing the sort of life Jesus was on about, they remain stagnant and unaware that they're missing out. They think they're experiencing authentic Christianity and so they don't search to discover it and truly experience it. This, I think, is sad.


Katherine said...

In a somewhat similar vein, I would be interested in your thoughts on this post by The Other Reuben.

AJ said...

amen! i'd be keen to discuss this in person sometime?

Scott said...

This could be a fair comment, although it would depend a fair bit on what you think authentic Christian experience looks like.

Reading this post though, does cause one to ask 'what is the secret to authentic Christian experience which this person has obviously discovered and I possibly haven't'? It seems a little like you're open to the charge of irony here: that your post title describes exactly the position you take in your post?

Reuben said...

Hi again Scott,

Thanks for the comment. I'm not quite sure I understand it though. I'm not advocating that it's OK to assume verses apply to me, rather, the opposite. So, of course I do not assume they do. But I am determined to understand why they apply to the people they apply to.

In speaking of an "authentic Christian experience", I did not have in mind some kind of mystical secret. I would like to think that most Christians do experience authentic Christianity. My point was that some people adopt a biblical hermeneutic that leads to them inappropriately assuming statements apply to them - regardless of what may actually be the case. The question you raise of "have I not discovered authentic Christian experience?" is valid if there are no good (biblical) reasons to suggest that one has discovered it - and indeed that is on of the points in my post. My point is that we should not assume that particular verses apply to us - but rather we should only think they do if we have good reasons to think so.